FAQ for Sober Coaching Your Teen

Sometimes it's easier to believe you are to blame. Then maybe you can fix it. If you are not to blame, then what do you do? Here are your answers.

Getting your questions answered

1.How will this workbook help me with my teen?
2. What exactly is in this workbook, Sober Coaching Your Toxic Teen?

3. How is the Facilatator Guide for sober coaching  different from the workbook?
4. Is my son or daughter really in trouble with alcohol and other drugs or is he/she just going through normal adolescent stuff?
5.What do I do once I know they drink and take drugs?

6. What is the best treatment for my child?
7. Is it true that kids can't identify in AA because of the age barrier?
8. We have a pretty solid family life, I don't really have anything to worry about, do I?
9. What do I do if my son or daughter threatens to commit suicide if I try to get them help or ask them to leave home?


1. How will this workbook help me with my teen?

How will this workbook help me with my teen? Sober Coaching Your Teen teaches parents and caregivers how to manage two types of drug crises:

Not all teens who use drugs are addicts, yet using any illegal substances put them at risk for all manner of tragedy including the loss of life.

This book is a management manual for the frantic parent and a resource for the professional to use with them. The reproducible handouts and worksheets are not only innovative, but important educational tools. This book is arranged so simply and clearly, that any panicked parent will be able to find the answers they need.  It is parent-panic friendly.  Of course we want our children to stop drinking and abusing drugs.  Sober Coaching Your Teen will help jump-start the process with research-based interventions using the Teaching-Family Model principles of developing empathy, boundaries, taking responsibility, and recognizing thinking errors. This comprehensive resource provides a better understanding of a family member's addiction so that we can chart an informed course of action.

2. What exactly is in this workbook?

This is a quick information guide and workbook that instructs parents and caregivers exactly where to go and what to do in a crisis concerning drugs. Although it also doubles as a prevention book, it is not a parenting book or a lecture on what parents should-have-done-when-their-child-was-young book.  Rather than alienate the parent/caregiver by hinting of inadequate parenting skills, this workbook tells a parent exactly how to cope.  The principles behind the Teaching-Family Model draws them into the treatment plan as a facilitator of the solution, not the cause of the problem.

The authors deal with teenage drug addiction and frantic parents all the time, Ms. Marshall as a consultant and Certified Counselor and Dr. Marshall as a psychologist in private practice. Because of the lack of accurate and non blaming information available to parents, caregivers, and professionals regarding drug abusing youth, the authors perceived a need for a 'parent friendly' response manual consistent with a Teaching-Family Model approach that stresses responsibility on the part of the adolescent teaching the parent/caregiver to be an active participant in the solution.

Sober Coaching Your Teen is the workbook that parental and community support groups use.  


3. How is the Facilatator Guide for sober coaching different from the workbook?

The facilatator guide is meant for both community support groups and aftercare at the treatment center your child goes to. It contains two tracks to run either

This facilatator guide contains all the lessons, layout, list of material, group exercises, and additional worksheets to teach parents what they need to learn. It is designed to be used by a professional but can also be used by a layperson  running a support group;
The Facilatator Guide is FREE if a group orders at least 5 copies and inclues a free digital download for ease of printing out lessons. A hard copy is $10 and a digital copy is $7.

4. Is my son or daughter really in trouble with alcohol and other drugs or is he/she just going through normal adolescent stuff?

This is a great question. What is the difference between the child that turned into an  'alien pod' after age 13 and the young person in serious trouble with alcohol and other drugs? Even professionals have a tough time with this. But consider this:    Fact: If one parent is an alcoholic, or drug addict, the child has a 50% chance of being alcoholic.
    Fact:If addiction runs in both sides of family they have an 80% chance.
    Fact: Only 5% percent of known alcoholics are on skid row. Where are the rest of them?
    Fact: The younger they are when they start using mind-affecting chemicals, the greater chance they will become alcoholics and addict.

Normally parents are told to watch for a drop in grades, a change in friends and secrecy to determine if their child is abusing drugs. What they are not told is that kids into sports are more likely to drink and abuse steroids than their counterparts, that grades have little to do with addiction, and drug use/abuse does not mean the same as drug addiction.

I, (Shelly Marshall), was a screaming alcoholic at age 15 yet I made straight As, appeared in plays both on and off campus, won awards at the National Forensic League competition, and had a scholarship for languages to go to college. By 21, my addiction had almost killed me and I found recovery only when on the brink of death. Lack of achievement can be a sign of substance abuse but obviously doesn't have to be. Withdrawing from the family, low grades, weird hair and clothes, and a rebellious attitude, are all signs of normal adolescent growth. The most telling signs of substance abuse and drug use is if a teen smokes, has a family history of alcoholism, hangs out with an identified drinking and drug crowd, is involved heavily in sports (I know this sounds counter-intuitive but research shows they are common indicators), and reacts very negatively (like scoffing, making fun of, acting disgusted) with anything to do with drug prevention and kids not drinking and driving (ex: movies that discourage drug use, FYI's on television and prevention programs at church and school). If you want to know if your son or daughter is using drugs, download the Winning Hand and answer the questions paying special attention to the starred questions. It may help. The Winning Hand: 21 Questions for Parents


5. What do I do once I know they drink and take drugs?

The best place for answers to substance abuse in your teen and to the alien they have become, can be found in support groups with other parents who aging through what you are. You can think about beginning your own group or check out these suggestions below:

Families Anonymous  www.FamiliesAnonymous.org

12-step fellowship for relatives and friends of persons with drug, alcohol or behavioral problems. Members learn to achieve their own serenity in spite of the turmoil which surrounds them. Besides  many booklets, pamphlets and bookmarks, publications include daily thought book, "Today a Better Way", and a bi-monthly newsletter, "The 12-Step Rag." If you would like to join the FA E meeting then send an email to tabw@insightbb.com and enter "subscribe" in the subject line. You will then get an email back that will ask you to confirm  the subscription, press your reply button and then your send button. They will send you a welcome letter.

You can also find other groups at the Self-help Resources Site. This guide has been developed to act as your starting point for exploring real-life support groups and networks that are available throughout the world and in your community. The American website provides a keyword-searchable database of over one thousand member-run "self-help" support groups for any specific illness, disability, addiction, bereavement situation, parenting, caregiver concern, abuse, or other stressful life situation. They list local non-profit self-help groups  worldwide and suggest ways to begin new groups. 

I don't want parents overreacting to normal teen behavior. Keep your kids safe with the facts, have strict rules about drinking and driving, keep informed and keep your eyes open. 


6. What is the best treatment for my child? (We do not recommend adolescent only centers.)

One of the biggest problems I see with parents is that they fail to understand that addiction is a very serious disease, not a parenting issue, and needs to be addressed as such. When seeking help, Mom and Dad often find professionals who want to treat them, and act as if getting good communication between family members is the solution. It's not. That is akin to using marriage counseling to treat the family alcoholic.

If a young person is to recover from any addiction, they need the same treatment as you or I. Unfortunately, that isn't usually found in an adolescent-only center. I do not recommend you send them there. Even a study recently put out by the Rand Corporation found that  centers that claim more effectiveness with adolescents could not be verified. Download the Summery in PDF

Adolescent centers make serious mistakes that can be avoided by you. There are understandable reasons for these mistakes that are discussed in scientific journals, but the upshot is: treat adolescents in multigenerational centers and their chances for recovery go up significantly (4-5 times!) It is best to place your son or daughter in a multigenerational drug treatment center and/or after care that uses blended adult and young people groups, or you are wasting your time and money. It has been proven that disturbed and misguided young people that are placed in groups with other misguided young people GET WORSE, seldom better. SAMSA has shown that although most people who go through drug treatment use drugs on on average of 29% less, post treatment, young people that go to adolescent centers use drugs 13% MORE! Need to be convinced? Read this paper:Changing Assumptions in Treating Adolescents A theoretical paper by Shelly Marshall. I recieved this letter after one of my presentations:

Dear Shelly, How often do teenagers that have gone through treatment go back to drugs? {You wrote that they increase their use, not decrease following treatment!!! (sentence paraphrased)} Shelly, this has been our experience as well with my agency, Treatment Resources for Youth works with very violent, court-adjudicated DJJ youth.  Our funding agency still believes in group work (for $$ reasons) and my Cl. Director is a very suburban, Ivory Tower type but he is definitely coming to the same conclusions.  Could you lead me in the direction of the SAMSHA research you mention.  SAMSHA is always very revered by our founders.
I attended the Integral Institute in Clearwater last Jan. and heard you speak on this topic and was in total agreement. You don't have to use this ? in your Q and A Internet Section unless you want.  I am merely seeking a reference to back up my beliefs when I write this year's grant. Thanks for all your help. K. M. Treatment Resources for Youth   Baltimore, MD 21218

The book Young Sober and Free: Experience, Strength, and Hope for Young Adultsis a recovery manual for your adolescent, but includes a chapter to parents that can make a huge difference in how you look at their problem with drugs. This book also contains experiences and examples written by parents like you. There is a whole section devoted to treatment centers and how to pick one out for your child.


7. Is it true that kids can't identify in AA because of the age barrier?

Just as alcoholism does not discriminate with age, neither does recovery.

It has recently been reported that youths do better in recovery groups that include peers, according to research presented at the recent Research Society on Alcoholism meeting in San Francisco. In a study involving 74 male and female adolescents in 12-step programs, researchers John F. Kelly, Ph.D., of the VA Palo Alto Healthcare System and Mark Myers, Ph.D., and Sandra A. Brown, Ph.D., from the University of California at San Diego found that youths attending meetings with one or more people in their age group went to more meetings and were more likely to view the program as important to their recovery. "Adult composition and content of groups may be a barrier to more frequent youth attendance," the researchers concluded "Thus, sharing of experiences by older members may not be perceived by youth as helpful or relevant in dealing with their own life-stage recovery issues." 

The problem with this type of  finding is that people misinterpret what this means. It is erroneously concluded that teens need all-peer or same age cohorts in order to recover. When you put teens into adolescent-only treatment or recovery groups, they tend to get worse, not better. The BEST treatment and recovery options for young people is MULTIGENERATIONAL.  Groups and treatment centers that draw on the strengths, experience, and role modeling of adults, the nurturing and wisdom of elders, and the identification and energy of other young people give everyone the best opportunity for balanced recovery. 

If a young person doesn't want recovery, the first thing they mention is the generation gap. If they do want recovery, they make friends of all ages in the 12 Step rooms. In addition, today, especially in large cities, there are many  hundreds of young people in 12 Step recovery.


8. We have a pretty solid family life, I don't really have anything to worry about do I?

A true story

If you think it can't be your kids and without going into reams of material on this, I simply want you to read a letter I received from a young woman in my "ASK Shelly" column on the Internet. This is only one of many that I get like this. If you think (or they think) it can't happen to you, remember neither did these parents.

Hi my name is April,
I am 15 and I am having a dilemma.  First of all,  I am doing a research paper on teen alcoholism and I am trying to find why it happens.  Now, here comes my problem.  I am a treasurer of S.O.D.A. (students opposed to drugs and alcohol) and I think I have a drinking problem.  I won't tell my parents.  I am a good student I never get into trouble and I have a "sheltered" life.  My parents say I am a model teen.  I don't feel it.  If I have the opportunity to drink,  I will take gulps anytime I can.  I drink a lot!! My boyfriend has tried to help me. Now I am doing it behind his back.  I love him with all of my heart and I don't know if I have a problem. Alcoholism DOES run in my family.  Do you have any advice and maybe you can tell me your story and if you would let me use that in my paper I would appreciate it.
Please ma'am I need help!!!  What do I do? Thank You, April

9. What do I do if my son or daughter threatens to commit suicide if I try to get them help or ask them to leave home?

Although some suicidal threats are intended to manipulate others so the threat-makers can get their way, there is no foolproof way to tell the difference between real and bogus threats. Therefore, all suicidal threats must be taken seriously. The treat-maker should be immediately connected to a mental health professional. If you do not know how to get in touch with one, use the nearest hospital ER. They will have an on-call mental health professional that will be called in. The professional will conduct a suicide risk assessment and decide upon the most appropriate course of action. It is easiest if the threat-maker agrees to go along voluntarily for treatment. If not, commitment papers can be filled out by anyone with first-hand knowledge of the threat. Phone the nearest community mental health center or mental hygiene commissioner for instructions on how to proceed.

Remember, even if you think the threat is not serious, treat it as if it is. Many a threat-maker has mistakenly killed themselves in a suicidal gesture gone awry. Even when a gesture is intended only to make a dramatic statement for manipulative purposes, it is too easy for something to go wrong and end up with tragic consequences. Also, remember the rule of natural/logical consequences. After an involuntary commitment or two, the frequency of bogus threats will likely drop off dramatically if they serve only to backfire rather than gain manipulative advantag